Nearly every financial guru tells potential budgeters to start their financial management with a simple (but not easy) task: track every single penny. For
Credit Card payments are a bit tricky to track in your budget. On one hand, you’re paying down a debt similar to your house payment so it counts towards increasing your net worth but on the other hand, if you’re making monthly payments, this feels more like an expense that you want to budget for.
In BudgetTracker, since we treat Credit Cards like a loan having their own account, we suggest transferring money from your Checking Account to your Credit Card account. One of the issues you’ll run into with this is setting a category for both the deposit and withdrawal portion of the transfer. Since they’re pretty much the same category (credit card transfer), lots of users will wonder why their budget expenses for the month are 0. This usually happens when you select the same budget category for the withdrawal and deposit portion of the transfer since they’re cancelling each other out. If you’re going to treat your credit card payments as an expense to be deducted from your budget, then you’ll only want to set a budget category on the withdrawal portion and not the deposit portion. We set this up for you by default.
If you don’t want to treat the payments as an expense and you won’t be paying off the monthly balance, the problem comes up if you’re trying to see how much you’ll have left once all your expenses have been paid when viewing the My Budget page. One option to manage your budget this way is to treat it similar to sending money to your 401k from the My Income page. When splitting your income, if you set it up to also transfer money to your credit card account, this will help it get tracked on the My Budget page so you know how much money is left at the end of the month.
Another option is to not setup a credit card account and only track the money leaving your checking account. For some users, this route might be easier but we try to make it flexible enough to accomidate most users needs.
A big part of staying on top of your budget and utilizing the BudgetTracker tool is to record all your transactions. This can however be a time consuming and difficult task to stay on top of it day to day so here are some optional tips you can use to remain up to date:
- Set a daily reminder in the evening. This is mainly just to make you think about all the transactions you’ve made for the day and then enter them into the site. We recommend later at night when you don’t usually have as much going on. You can either enter them from your computer or use your phone to enter in the transaction and set a category for your records.
- Import your transactions. This is another option if you don’t want to enter in transactions day to day. Note that in the beginning you’ll need to need manually set each category but over time this will become automatically set for you the more you import.
- Automatic Importing; while we do not offer the ability to sync directly with your bank, we do offer the ability to import your transactions from Mint or Yodlee. What you can do is setup an account and download all your transactions monthly or weekly to a CSV file and then import those into BudgetTracker. As you go on, the categories will get prepopulated.
With each of these options, this will help reduce the chance of getting out of sync with your bank. If you do however miss a transaction, you can either go to Transaction Search from the My Transaction to find out where it was missing, or click the “balance account” link on the My Accounts page to bring your total balance back inline with your banks balance.
We’ve made some exchange rate updates. Now when viewing the My Transaction page, any accounts that have a custom exchange rate will get calculated into the total balance which is your default currency.
To help get started with the new iPad app, this article will give you a walk-thru of the app. When you first install the app, the Home screen is a list of all your categories and stored locally on your device. Clicking the plus sign in the upper right corner will allow you to enter in expenses against these categories. Doing so can be done completely offline and without needing a BudgetTracker login. To sync the data on your device with your BudgetTracker account, first click on the list icon in the upper left corner and select “Settings”. Then choose “BudgetTracker Login” and enter your login information. Once logged in, your BudgetTracker categories and the past 60 days of transactions will be imported into your iPad app.
When thinking about budgeting your money, there are typically two types of budgeting, Categorization and Envelopes. The idea behind categories is that you create separate categories for each expense over a monthly period and allocate from the entire monthly income how much you would like to spend during that month. With Envelopes, this usually is allocated based on each check so you know how much is available after each check instead of the whole month. With BudgetTracker, we offer both methods for budgeting your money.
- Categories – The way categories work is that you first need to setup your Bills and Income. By doing this, the budget categories will automatically get created for those expenses and income and will be calculated directly from the Bills or Income page. So if you have a Paycheck that occurs weekly, the budget amount will change depending on how many weeks are in the month. Once you see your Bills and Income on the My Budget page, then it’s time to start entering in your manual categories. For this you have 3 options:
- Enter the categories directly on the My Categories page. You’ll also see categories that have already been created for you from the My Bills or My Income page. Once the categories are entered, go to the My Budget page and you’ll then see links next to each new category titled “Add to Budget”. This will allow you to determine how much you would like to allocate for that category. As you progress, you can see at the bottom how much is available from your Income.
- The second method is to manually create your categories from the My Budget page. With this method, we give you some default categories to choose from or you can create your own. This works similar to setting up your categories on the My Categories page, only that you get more options and can enter the Budget Amount directly from the input section. Also note, your Categories and your Budget Categories are the same thing so that when you record a transaction against a category, you are updating your budget at the same time.
- The third option for manual budget entry is to use the Setup Wizard by selecting “Setup Wizard” at the top of the page. This give you default category names with text-boxes to make it easy to enter in several new categories/budget items from a single page.
When setting up your Income on the My Income page, we give you the flexibility to split the way your Income comes in. The easiest way to handle Income is record the Net Amount in the amount field but if you are one of those users that want to keep track of taxes withheld or taxes paid, here are a few options:
- The first option is to enter the Net Amount in the top Amount box, then enter your Gross Amount in the first split box. In the 2nd input box and on, you’ll want to enter in negative amounts to simulate your taxes. This is essentially how it will look on your paycheck. Gross – Social Security – Federal, etc. The tricky part comes when selecting a category. With this method you’ll want to choose the same category for all split amounts so that when viewing your chart by category, you see the total net amount for the month and not your gross. You can then further categorize your taxes by turning on Tags from the Settings page and tagging the split items as their appropriate tax category.
- The second option which is mainly for Small Businesses is to enter your net amount in the first split box, and taxes in the text boxes thereafter. If you have a small business this works well since in real life you are adding the full gross amount to your Checking Account and then spending it when tax time comes. For personal users however, this method will not work since the total amounts whether negative or positive will not add up to the actual amount you received.
- And the third option is to utilize the “Deposit To Multiple Accounts” feature. This will allow you to specify the net amount for your Checking account and assign the category as expected. You’ll then want to create a special account just for your taxes as a placeholder to keep track of so that they do not effect your Checking Account balance when recorded. You can then assign the additional split text boxes their own category and the Tax Account allowing you to graph them separately when needed.
When importing your transactions, most times the bank will give you a payee that starts out with the name of the place you made the purchase at and ends with a long tax id or bank id. To automatically import the correct payee, we have 2 methods in place. The first is to go to Payees page and click on Payee Rules. This allows you to define Payee names to search for when they come in and automatically import them as the name you choose. The second we do automatically. Whenever you change a payee that was imported, we’ll track the change so that if it comes in again, we’ll update it for you. Note that if the payee has a tax id or a unique number, this will need to be added to the Payee Rules to be changed.